Thursday, November 29, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Tomi Ungerer

(b. Nov. 28, 1931)

Children's books, anti-war posters, and erotic art.

Tomi Ungerer was an enigma on American culture of the sixties and seventies. There was a distrust from the public of a man who simultaneously wrote and illustrated children's and erotic books -  never mind the posters he created in protest of the Vietnam war (The image of the Statue of Liberty being shoved into a mouth was one of the more tame) For this trichotomy of a human being hailing from the Alsace region of France, life in the U.S. became trying in the early seventies. His books were frequently banned and purposefully not given to children. He eventually fled to a farm in Canada and lived for many years off of the land, farming and eating the livestock. He wrote a wonderful book about this time called, Far Out Isn't Far Enough, and a documentary of the same name was released this year. His style is unmistakable, his humor is rich, and he is one of my greatest heroes.

Tomi Ungerer (Classic pose):

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Christina Applegate

(b. Nov. 25, 1971) Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead is one of the best of its kind. And it was Christina's role in this film as a teenager pretending to be a grownup pretending to be a fashion designer that served as one of my inspirations. Plus, if I was a cute blonde I would totally date the hot dog vendor in a bowtie.

Of course, most of my peers will know her as Kelly Bundy, the ditzy bombshell from Married With Children. I was not allowed to watch this show as a kid (but I did anyway).

Christina Applegate (incredulous glare from DTMTBB):

Stitched Portraits: Candy Darling

(b. Nov. 24, 1944) A Warhol Superstar. A Transsexual. And Beautiful.

Candy Darling (with candy):

Monday, November 26, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Miley Cyrus

(b. Nov. 23, 1992) "Hannah Montana is Miley Cyrus," said my wife to me one night while we were watching a film that had nothing to do with either of these persons. She was feigning a waking state and probably had that bit of news somewhere in the subconscious (teaching at a middle school does things to your brain...). The timing of this statement has always caused us pause for giggles and aided in the decision to choose young Miley as the subject for this Black Friday portrait. That, and the public shaming she gave to Urban Outfitters president, Richard Hayne, for his monetary support of Rick Santorum. I liked that. It was pretty cool.

Miley Cyrus ('Milin):

Stitched Portraits: Claiborne Pell

(b. Nov. 22, 1918) On Thanksgiving I wanted to stitch someone I was truly thankful for and Pell grants helped me pay for school. So on a personal level, I am thankful for his work to make them possible. But I'm even more thankful for the reason that the grants were created. They were made available to prisoners to give education where it was needed most. He also helped to establish the NEA and NEH, advocated for mass transportation, and yes - he was a Rhode Island Senator for six terms. Rhody Represent.

Claiborne Pell (looking forward):

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Savion Glover

(b. Nov. 19, 1973) More than anything else, I always knew I wanted to be an entertainer. Dancing was a part of it that came naturally. And it made me feel really cool (whether or not this was felt by others is debatable). But I've also always enjoyed eating food - a lot. This, mixed with a relatively slow metabolism and an interest in sewing/drawing/crafting gave me pause when considering a career in dance (Fat man in a tutu?). That being said, I incorporate my dance skills into every day life now, even if my daughter doesn't like it ("Daddy stop dancing").

And those early years of adolescence, with the dance in me? Savion Glover was there - sharing tap moves on Sesame Street and performing in his own Broadway show. And HE looked cool doing it! Now, Savion dedicates his life to educating others. Maybe I'll take tap dancing lessons with him some day...

Savion Glover (stoic):

Monday, November 19, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Jeff Buckley

(b. Nov. 17, 1966) Made Grace. A listening of which can purge pain for me, always. My wife shares this ability too. Jeff Buckley was a preordained portrait choice. (And I'm pretty sure I already know who gets to have this one...)

Sadly, before he made a follow-up, he drowned while swimming in Wolf River Harbor.

Jeff Buckley (album pose):

Friday, November 16, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Ol' Dirty Bastard

(b. Nov. 15, 1968) Russell Tyrone Jones went by the name Ol' Dirty Bastard - a moniker given to him by his fellow Wu-Tang member, Method Man (he said there was "no father to his style"). And if he wasn't part of such a prominent rap group, ODB would have been an obscure outsider artist. Listening to him is a test of earful patience and this has always been the reason why he is my favorite Wu.

There is also his blatant disregard for authority, characterized most egregiously in the MTV profile where he picks up his welfare check with his family, in a limo (you know, at the same time he had a platinum album out). The absurdity of an act like this is one that polarized him, but it spoke to some deep issues that we continue to discuss today. Because really, we talk about welfare as free money gifts from the government. "THEY didn't EARN that!" is a common epithet (That, and "I'M a HARD worker"). To this I say: Let people do whatever they want with their welfare checks - it's only going to have the same effect that wasting money has on anyone. And the lives we lead based on our actions - We all earn that.

Ol' Dirty (Grill, prominently displayed):

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Kurt Vonnegut

(b. Nov. 11, 1922) I'm sure many young people have called Vonnegut their favorite author of all time, and they would be making a good choice. He was definitely mine. Growing up in a waspy suburb, Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle told me of greater social issues far beyond the comfort of soccer and school dances. His columns that he wrote for In These Times helped to get me through college as well. As a writer he always managed to be both sophmorically funny and bitingly satirical.

Kurt Vonnegut (classic pose):

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Hedy Lamarr

(b. Nov. 9, 1913) Quite possibly the most striking star of MGM's Golden age was also a progressive genius. Hedy Lamarr. Known for her sexually charged and liberating role in the film Ecstasy (1933), she went on to star in many Hollywood films. At the same time she was working with the avant-garde composer, George Antheil, on a system of frequency-hopping as a means of secret communication. We now refer to this technology as "cell phones" and have Lamarr to thank.

A renaissance woman, Hedy Lamarr:

Stitched Portraits: Dorothy Day

(b. November 8, 1897) A Catholic Anarchist who has been up for sainthood since 1983. She established The Catholic Worker (which still sells for a penny). She was a fighter for social justice. She considered Lenin and Marx to be secular saints. She celebrated Castro for his social reforms.

Once she began her mission in the thirties to fight for the rights of the underprivileged, nothing would sway her conviction.

Dorothy Day (always a piercing stare):

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Eugene V. Debs

Happy Election Day, America!

Yesterday, was the birthday of Eugene V. Debs (b. Nov. 5, 1855). On the eve of an historic election, I could not have had a better choice. Who is Debs, you ask? Well, early in his political career, he formed the American Railway Union and went to jail after leading a strike to quell the pay cuts facing the workers. While imprisoned he read Karl Marx and once released, created the Socialist Democratic Party, running for President a number of times - the last from a prison cell (Convict No. 9653 For President ran in 1920 and actually took 3.2% of the popular vote - nearly a million votes). Passionate about his cause, he lived to serve it, even spending out the last of his days in a sanitarium.

He famously quipped, "Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

Eugene V. Debs (looking up):

Monday, November 5, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Walter Cronkite

"The most trusted man in America" (b. Nov. 4, 1916)

He famously delivered some of the most important news of our time throughout his career as a news anchor. After retirement he sought for political campaign finance reform by arguing that candidates should be given free televised airtime as they do in all European Democracies.

On this eve before election, give Walter Cronkite a birthday present, and remember to go vote tomorrow.

That's the way it is: